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Nancy Peacock is 2018 Piedmont Laureate

Nancy Peacock

New York Times bestselling novelist and longtime friend of the North Carolina Writers’ Network, Nancy Peacock, has been named the 2018 Piedmont Laureate.

Nancy Peacock’s first novel, Life Without Water, was chosen as a New York Times Notable Book. She has since published stories, essays, and poems, as well two more novels and a memoir. Her latest book, a historical novel titled The Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson, was chosen as the Shelf Unbound Best Indie Book of 2013. In 2015, the book won the 22nd Annual Writer’s Digest Award for Best Self-Published Book, which led to its purchase by Atria Press. Peacock believes in the power of story to transform and heal:

Nancy is also a beloved writing teacher, having led the Fiction Master Class at the NCWN 2014 Spring Conference, among other past NCWN conference visits. She leads two longtime writing classes for women in Carrboro, and a monthly prompt class (free!) at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill. Countless writers have benefited from her wisdom and generosity.

According to an article on the City of Raleigh website, “Nancy Peacock has been writing since fourth grade. She is largely self-taught and well-mentored.”

“For me, writing is a little dance,” Peacock says. “I have to make myself walk across the room and ask the partner I think I’m interested in to dance with me. That’s the going forward part, the making myself sit down at the desk even when I don’t know what I’m doing, or have a full plot or character in mind.”

The goal of the Piedmont Laureate program is to “promote awareness and heighten appreciation for excellence in the literary arts in the Piedmont region of North Carolina.” Nominees must live in Durham, Orange, or Wake counties. Each year, the nomination goes to a writer in a different genre. Laureates agree to hold public readings, offer workshops for all age groups, and generally promote literature online and in the physical realm.

Peacock was recognized in a ceremony at the North Carolina Museum of Art on Tuesday, January 16. She will serve a one-year term.

Mimi Herman was the 2017 Piedmont Laureate (poetry).

The Piedmont Laureate program is co-sponsored by the City of Raleigh Arts Commission, Durham Arts Council, Orange County Arts Commission, and United Arts Council of Raleigh & Wake County.

Telling Your Story: a Call for Personal Essays

by Randell Jones

Personal Essay Publishing Project

Everybody loves a good story; everybody has a story to tell. Some folks just need the right opportunity and perhaps a little encouragement to share it.

That is the mission of the Personal Essay Publishing Project, a chance for both new and experienced writers to craft a story from their own lives around a common theme and then to see their creative efforts shared in print in an anthology.

The current project, through mid-February 2018, takes its theme from the life of America’s pioneer hero, Daniel Boone, during an episode of his adventures 250 years ago in the winter of 1767-68.

Snowbound in the Wilderness

After the fall harvest in 1767, Daniel Boone left his Wilkes County home on Beaver Creek in North Carolina for a winter hunt. Boone and his companions passed through the Appalachian Mountains along the Russell Fork of the Big Sandy River. That water gap is today in Breaks Interstate Park, straddling the border between Virginia and Kentucky near Elkhorn City, Kentucky. The hunters were caught in the wilderness by an early and heavy snow storm; they had to winter over.

The men’s supplies ran low, especially shot and powder for their rifles. Rather than exhaust themselves and squander their ammunition by chasing scarce game through the deep snow, they camped at a salt spring near today’s David, Kentucky. They conserved their resources by waiting to shoot the wild game that came their way seeking the salt lick. Boone and his fellow hunters survived the winter through their woodsman skills, making do. Enduring the monotony of being snowbound, they kept their spirits high, and their resolve to overcome their adverse circumstances never waned. After surviving a long, harsh winter, the men returned home in the spring, having had quite an adventure and delighting their families with their long-awaited return.

Telling Your Own Story

In the spirit of finding oneself in a challenging circumstance and persevering by making do, you are invited to write a personal essay about some experience of your own life in which you made do, kept your spirits high, or your resolve strong. Or perhaps your experience did not end so positively. In any case, you are invited to share your story in 750 words in a personal essay.

Only North Carolina and Kentucky authors will be included in the final collection, as it pays tribute to the resourcefulness and the character of Daniel Boone and his colleagues on the 250th anniversary of their experience hunting in the wilderness.

You may write about your own experience or share the story of a family member or someone you know personally. These are short, personal essays of real-life experiences. No fiction will be considered.

For more information about this “Call for Personal Essays,” visit Click “Classroom” in the main menu and scroll down to “Personal Essay Publishing Project.”

Make your own history; share your good story with everybody.

Orison Books Journeys Toward Enlightenment

“It is a uniquely gratifying feeling to be able to present the work of a writer in an extended form—the form of a book,” says Orison Books founding editor Luke Hankins. “Which is perhaps a more durable form.”

It is this sense of longevity, of the longview, of the certainty that centuries-old spirituality still has something to offer our modern day, which infuses this small non-profit press.

Based in Asheville, Orison Books believes that “the best spiritual art and literature call us to meditate and contemplate, rather than asking us to adopt any ideology or set of propositions.” To those ends, they publish fiction, nonfiction, and poetry of “exceptional literary merit,” work that is “broad, inclusive, and open to perspectives spanning the spectrums of spiritual and religious thought, ethnicity, gender identity, and sexual orientation.”

Since its founding in 2014, Orison Books has published poems that were twice featured in The New York Times Magazine. Their books have been reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Foreword Reviews, among other outlets, and have been finalists for the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, The National Jewish Book Award in Poetry, and The Paterson Poetry Prize.

The annual Orison Books Prizes in Fiction and Poetry are open now through April 1. This year’s judges are Vandana Khanna (Poetry) and Lan Samantha Chang (Fiction). Fiction manuscripts may consist of short stories, a novel, a novella, flash/micro fiction, or any combination of forms, as long as the manuscript meets the 30,000 word minimum. Full-length poetry collections should run between 50 and 100 pages. The winning entry in each genre will be awarded publication and a $1,500 cash prize, in addition to a standard royalties contract.

Otherwise, Orison Books accepts submissions year-round in the category of nonfiction, poetry in translation, and anthology proposals. General fiction submissions are read only during the month of October.

Their author list includes Jessie van Eerden, Stella Vinitchi Radulescu, and new translations from the Urdu of nineteenth-century mystical poet Ghalib, by M. Shahid Alam.

As a volunteer-run non-profit, they rely on the generous support of donors and readers. Tax-deductible donations can be made here.

Orison Books seeks donors to support the publication of their forthcoming titles, in part or in full. Donors of $100 or more will be listed in the book they choose to support. You can see forthcoming titles in need of a donor, here.

Keep an eye out for the North Carolina Writers’ Network Spring 2018 newsletter, which drops on or around March 1, for a full Q&A with Luke Hankins and much, much more about Orison Books!

Dream Big with Book Harvest on MLK Day

Book Harvest, based in Durham, believes that books are “essential to children’s healthy development and well-being and that all children deserve to grow up in book-rich homes.”

As part of their mission to remove barriers to book ownership, Book Harvest will host the Dream Big Book Drive on Monday, January 15: Martin Luther King, Jr., Day.

Held in the afternoon in Durham Central Park, the event is part book drive, part community service event, part festival, complete with live music, literary mascots, activities for children, and other family-oriented programming.

For Book Harvest, this national holiday isn’t a day off, but instead a “day on.”

According to their blog, 198 people have already registered to volunteer. The event has drawn support from 64 sponsors, including Duke University Library, Scholastic, and Written Word Media. In addition, some 45 book drives have registered to also hold events that day.

That’s right: even you can run an book drive. On its website, Book Harvest lists all the tools you need to start collecting books. “All the tools you need to run a book drive in your neighborhood, school, congregation, civic group, or workplace” are in their online toolkit.

Book Harvest believes books are vital to helping all children succeed in school—and life. In addition to their annual Dream Big event, Book Harvest offers programs for providing books to families with newborns; providing books to kids about to go on summer break; a community book bank; and more.

To learn more about Book Harvest, visit, or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Sally Buckner (1931-2018)

Summing up a life like Sally Buckner’s, who was a longtime friend of the North Carolina Writers’ Network and a beloved member of our state’s literary community, inevitably fails to do the person justice.

We could talk about how Sally earned her Ph.D from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Or how she spent more than a quarter-century teaching at Peace College in Raleigh. Or how she was integral to the current iterations of the North Carolina Poetry Society, International Poetry Festival, and North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame, often introducing inductees and offering up her encyclopedic knowledge of our state’s writers to enhance the ceremony program.

We could talk about her publication credits, mostly fiction and poetry, or her work as an editor on books such as Words and Witness: 100 Years of North Carolina Poetry (CAP, 1999) or as a staff writer for Asheville Poetry Review. We could even talk about her vast correspondence with literary lights such as NC Literary Hall of Fame inductees Betty Adcock, Doris Betts, Fred Chappell, Sam Ragan, Shelby Stephenson, and many others.

But all of these accomplishments, as impressive and beautiful as they are, still don’t capture what Sally Buckner meant to her community and most of all, to her friends. Many, many writers have expressed deep gratitude to Sally for the impact she had on their lives. In this weekend’s outpouring on social media, words such as “friend,” “mentor,” and “beloved” pop up time and time again.

Were her life a word cloud, these descriptors would be at the center. And that is a life to admire.

In 2016, Sally Buckner was honored with The Order of the Long Leaf Pine. Among the most prestigious awards conferred by the Governor of North Carolina, this award is bestowed upon a person for exemplary service to the State of North Carolina and their communities above and beyond the call of duty, and which has made a significant impact and strengthened North Carolina.

“Sally was one of the lights of this state,” said NCWN Executive Director Ed Southern.

She is irreplaceable, and will be missed.

Support for Underrepresented Voices: Backbone Press

Last year on our blog, we highlighted one literary magazine each week. The response was so positive, we decided to continue with a variation on a theme.

In 2018, the focus will be on publishers: the small presses, hybrid companies, and purveyors of quality handbound titles we’ve grown to love and that are cultivated right here in the Tar Heel State.

First up? Backbone Press.

Based in Durham, Backbone Press is “a small press with a big vision.” Committed to being a venue for ethnic poets, including African American, Latino, Asian, and others, Backbone Press publishes poetry that is “political, invocative, social, gritty, personal, and poignant.”

A micropress, their focus is on chapbooks, generally, and in language that is “elegant yet striking as well as provocative.” The author list includes Dariel Suarez, Allison Joseph, Tyree Daye, and Tara Betts.

Catherine Ntube won the 2017 Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize for her afrofuturistic poem “Contaminant Relics.” This contest, sponsored by Backbone Press each spring, honors the prolific work of poet great Lucille Clifton. Widely celebrated for her unpretentious and unapologetic poems, Clifton’s unique free verse was free of punctuation, taut, and always recognizably her. When submitting think: humanness, struggle, adversity, resilience. This year’s final judge was Vievee Francis.

The managing editor is Crystal Simone Smith, the author of two poetry chapbooks, Routes Home (Finishing Line Press, 2013) and Running Music (Longleaf Press, 2014). She is also the author of Wildflowers: Haiku, Senryu, and Haibun (2016). Her work has appeared in numerous journals including: Callaloo, Nimrod, Barrow Street, Obsidian II: Literature in the African Diaspora, African American Review, and Mobius: The Journal of Social Change. She is an alumna of the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop and the Yale Summer Writers Conference. She holds an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte and lives in Durham with her husband and two sons where she teaches English Composition and Creative Writing.

“Our niche is cultural writing, not just poetry, by African American writers,” says Smith. “We need more venues and spaces focusing on diversity.”

Backbone Press accepts unpublished work during their open reading period each Spring. Recent acceptances include The Ocean Between by Beatriz Fernandez and The Riddle of Longing by Faisal Mohyuddin.

In the Fall, Backbone Press sponsors The Shared Dream Chapbook Contest for immigrant poets (2018 winner TBA).

Keep an eye on their website,, or follow them on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest.

What Are Your Writerly Intentions for 2018?

With the holiday season behind us and a new year ahead, it’s a natural time to take stock of where we are on our writing journey and consider what we want to achieve this calendar year.

Don’t consider them “resolutions.” Instead, let’s take positive steps toward our writing goals. Let’s think about where we want to end up and what small steps we might take today, tomorrow, next week, to get ourselves there.

Maybe we haven’t written anything for a long, long time. Maybe 2018 is the year we intend to write—if not every day—then with some kind of regularity. This might entail joining a weekly or monthly writing group to keep us on track; blocking out “us” time on weekends away from demands of family or work; or simply carrying around a little notebook so we can grab small amounts of writing time in the spaces of our day, standing in line or waiting for our kids to finish basketball practice. The little moments add up.

Maybe we’ve been writing a while now and hope that some of our material is ready for publication. If so, then this is the year to submit! Many literary magazines don’t read submissions in the summer (roughly May-August), so if we’re planning on getting published in 2018, now’s the time to start sending out our work. Some writers aim for 100 rejections a year, believing that’s how many rejections it takes to get something accepted. So often, it’s about submission volume. Plus, if we’re submitting, that means we’re actively engaged with our progress as an artist. We can start with the Opportunities section of our website (log-in required); our annual contests (three of which are currenty open for submissions!); as well as our recent survey of Carolina-based literary rags, and go from there. Good luck!

(And if you do land a publication or contest win, let us know! We love nothing more than sharing that kind of good news in our Hats Off! section.)

Or maybe we’ve got a book coming out this year, and we’re laying groundwork for our marketing and PR campaigns. If so, congratulations. Publishing a book is a major accomplishment. But our work is far from finished. If we’re being published the traditional way, or if we’ve published a book ourselves, there is no bigger advocate for our work than the person who wrote it. We need to prepare our elevator pitch, so when someone asks what our book is about, we’re ready with an engaging blurb that makes the questioner want to rush out and buy it. We need to send out review copies as early as possible, as there’s always a lag. And if we haven’t let NCWN know about our new book, submit here! We’ll feature it in our Book Buzz section and share it through social media.

This can be a special year us and for our writing. The North Carolina Writers’ Network hopes to be a productive part of it, no matter where we are on our writing path.

Happy New Year!

A Last-Minute Gift for that Book Lover on Your List

Kazabo, a newish kind of start-up publisher that we highlighted here on our blog back in 2016, is offering an interesting gift option if you just don’t know what to get that book-lover on your holiday list:

In honor of our grand opening celebration—and Christmas!—Kazabo Publishing has launched The idea behind is simple: Send your friends an ecard with an actual gift—one of our new books—attached. To celebrate our grand opening, everything, including the gift, is free.

The book we are offering (for free!) is called A Touch of Classics. This is a collection of stories by Saki (H.H. Munro), Italo Svevo, Grazia Deledda, Luigi Capuana, Balduin Groller, and Matilde Serao. With the exception of the Saki stories, these stories have never been available in English before. So this isn’t just a great way to send your friends holiday gifts, it’s also a literary event!

For more information—and to send your free gifts—visit

Flyleaf Launches Voice Rising

Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill has launched a new reading series: “Voice Rising”:

“Voice Rising pairs a small slate of hand-picked, local writers, be they unpublished, lesser-known or on the brink of a bigger stage, with one of our area’s myriad renowned writers for a truly unique evening.

“With each writer reading unpublished work for ten minutes followed by a crowd Q&A, Voice Rising is putting a local spin on your beloved bookshop readings.”

The first event on Monday, January 29, at 7:00 pm, will feature local writers Diana Mellow, Heather Wilson, and Michael Ventuolo-Mantovani alongside renowned Chapel Hill author and chair of UNC’s Creative Writing Department Daniel Wallace.

Diana Mellow is the Thomas Wolfe Scholar at UNC-Chapel Hill. She comes from Moscow and grew up in New York City. When she’s not writing fiction, she’s designing theater sets, painting murals, and putting on puppet shows.

Heather Wilson is recent graduate of the University of North Carolina’s creative writing program. Her essays have been published in Off Assignment, an international online magazine for non-traditional travel literature, as well as Full Grown People, an online essay anthology. She lives in Carrboro and works at UNC Family Medicine.

Michael Venutolo-Mantovani is, in partnership with the wonderful crew at Flyleaf, the creator of Voice Rising. He is a longtime musician and record industry veteran whose work has been published on Bandcamp Daily,, and Cuepoint Magazine. After far too many years in New York City, he recently relocated to Chapel Hill with his wife. He is currently working on his literary debut.

Daniel Wallace is the author of six novels, including Big Fish (1998), Ray in Reverse (2000), The Watermelon King (2003), Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician (2007), The Kings and Queens of Roam (2013), and most recently Extraordinary Adventures (May 2017). His children’s book, published in 2014, and for which he did both the words and the pictures, is called The Cat’s Pajamas, and it is adorable. In 2003, Big Fish was adapted and released as a movie and then in 2013 the book and the movie were mish-mashed together and became a Broadway musical. His novels have been translated into over two-dozen languages.

Daniel Wallace is the J. Ross MacDonald Distinguished Professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, his alma mater, where he directs the Creative Writing Program.

Flyleaf Books is located at 752 Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd., in Chapel Hill

For more information, click here.

Year in Review: Literary Magazines

This year on the White Cross School blog has been all about literary magazines. We’ve featured one each week, mostly from North Carolina, but a few from our friends in South Carolina as well.

It’s the end of the year, and we “think” we made it through the ones we’re familiar with, anyway, although we’re sure we’ve missed some too.

Use this as a resource when you look to submit your work in 2018. Good luck!

Appalachian Journal.
Asheville Poetry Review.
at Length.
Broad River Review.
The Carolina Quarterly.
Cave Wall.
Change Seven.
Cold Mountain Review.
The Crucible.
The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature.
Firefly Ridge Magazine.
Glint Literary Journal.
The Greensboro Review.
InterGalactic Medicine Show.
Main Street Rag.
Minerva Rising Literary Journal.
moonShine Review.
The New New South.
North Carolina Folklore Journal.
North Carolina Literary Review.
The Pedestal Magazine.
Pembroke Magazine.
Pisgah Review.
Prime Number Magazine.
Raleigh Review.
Redheaded Stepchild.
Rockvale Review.
Snapdragon: a Journal of Art & Healing.
South 85.
Southern Cultures.
The Sun.
Tar River Poetry.
The Thomas Wolfe Review.
Wild Goose Poetry Review.